NFL Trade Grades: Giants and Browns both winners in Oliver Vernon, Kevin Zeitler swap
On Friday morning, the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns . The Giants sent edge rusher Olivier Vernon to Cleveland in exchange for guard Kevin Zeitler, also shipping pick No. 132 in the upcoming NFL draft to the Browns in exchange for No. 155. It’s not the hotly-rumored Giants-Browns swap that has been bandied about in recent days, but it’s an important maneuver for both teams that merits somewhat further examination.
Let’s grade the trade.
New York Giants: A-
- G Kevin Zeitler
- No. 155
I really like this deal for the Giants. The financial ramifications and the pick swap are the only things keeping their grade from being a pure A.
Zeitler is one of the best players in the league at his position (which happens to be a position of major need for the Giants), and while he is under contract for two more years after this one, none of his future salary is guaranteed, so New York can elect to cut ties at any time without taking any additional dead money on the books. Zeitler counts for $10 million against the cap this year, which is less than the $15.5 million base salary Vernon was set to draw, but the trade of Vernon accelerates an $8 million dead money charge onto their books.
With Zeitler and Will Hernandez locked in at the guard spots for the next few seasons, the Giants should be much better blocking in both the run game and the pass game, which should be a big help to Saquon Barkley and whoever takes over for Eli Manning when the Giants finally realize he is done. Losing Vernon off the defensive line leaves a hole up front, but they should be able to fill the spot either in the draft or free agency with a cheaper option. Whoever they choose may not have the upside of Vernon, but it’s not like Vernon has really tapped into his upside since his first year in New York anyway.
Cleveland Browns: B+
- Edge Olivier Vernon
- No. 132
Vernon is in a far better position to tap into his upside in Cleveland than he was in New York. Playing on the same defensive line as Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi should allow him cleaner lanes into the backfield than he has been afforded over the past two years. He still has the ability to get to the quarterback when afforded proper time and space, and he should get more of both in Cleveland than if he stayed with the Giants.
The Browns add some money to their books with this deal, but they were among the teams most flush with cap space and they badly needed another edge rusher to play across from Garrett so it should prove worth it in the end. And if it’s not, they can move on with Vernon with relative ease at the end of this season.
Zeitler is an excellent player and surely both Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb benefitted from his presence, but the Browns are already spending a lot of money on the offensive line (especially on the interior) and they have a replacement waiting in the wings in Austin Corbett, whom they drafted in the second round last year. Add in the pick swap and the Browns, like the Giants, appear to have done quite well for themselves here.